Television

10 TV Shows To Watch Now That Game of Thrones is Over

The final victim after eight seasons of fire, ice, and bloodshed on HBO’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones just might be our Sunday nights. Thrones had established itself as the appointment TV show of the decade, and now that the game is over, there’s a void left in both the television landscape and the hearts of many viewers who crave watercooler-ready event pop culture.

But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of shows, both old and new, to fill the vacuum left by Game of Thrones. Here’s ten of the most notable:

[SPOILERS below]

Westworld

Westworld’s third season is still a year away, but there’s a reason the sci-fi western drama adapted for HBO by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy takes its time between installments, and it’s not just its incredibly high production values. The show’s incredibly complex, weaving storylines take time to map out and write, but leave fans with plenty of theories and mythology to chew on each week in the same way Game of Thrones has since 2011.

Stranger Things

There will be more than just fireworks this Independence Day–this Fourth of July will see the season three premiere of Netflix’s nostalgic horror/sci-fi series, Stranger Things. As the show’s child stars mature into teenagers and the time period reaches the heart of the 1980s, we’re expecting shopping malls, New Wave music, and of course, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) facing off with terrifying grotesque monsters.

A Discovery of Witches

The new critically-acclaimed BBC series A Discovery of Witches stars Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey, The Good Wife) and Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge, Triple 9) and is based on Deborah Harkness’ bestselling All Souls trilogy. Its first season comprises eight episodes and its tale of magic and witchcraft should scratch the itch of Thrones fans wanting more magic in their pop culture.

His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials was first adapted into a blockbuster 2007 Hollywood film, The Golden Compass, that bombed hard and put the planned trilogy to a halt. Fans of the beloved series have been clamoring for another adaptation ever since, and are finally getting it thanks to a collaboration between HBO, BBC, and New Line Cinema. The cast includes Ruth Wilson (The Affair), James McAvoy (X-Men), Dafne Keen (Logan), and Hamilton star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. The historical fantasy that, yes, deals with magic, spirits, and the end of the world–but also talking polar bears–is expected to surpass fans’ already-high expectations; its second season is already in pre-production.

The Walking Dead

The zombie smash hit will be back on AMC for its tenth season in October, coming off its game-changing ninth season that saw the loss of series protagonist Rick Grimes. New showrunner Angela Kang was praised for steering the show into a new era with several new castmembers and the rise of big, big bads The Whisperers. The Whisperers storyline will continue in the new season, and likely lead to the deaths of even more fan favorite characters, including Michonne, whose actress Danai Gurira is rumored to be leaving the show soon.

Good Omens

One of the most anticipated shows of 2019 is Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of Good Omens, the fan favorite comedic novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman about the birth of the Antichrist and the end of everything. Amazon spared no expense and the show boasts an incredible cast: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Jon Hamm, Miranda Richardson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brian Cox, and Frances McDormand. The six episodes of the series were directed by Douglas McKinnon (Doctor Who) and focuses on Sheen and Tennant as a bickering angel and demon forced to team up to stop the Apocalypse.

The Witcher

Based on the wildly popular video game, The Witcher will be a Netflix original about Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter, who struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more evil than the creatures he faces. Henry Cavill is moving on from Superman and Justice League and has physically transformed into the fan-favorite, silver-haired protagonist.

The Expanse

The Expanse has been drawing comparisons to Game of Thrones since its debut in 2015, and the parallels are obvious. Both are adapted from a series of epic, bestselling novels and both deal with multiple alliances, betrayals, political maneuvering, and a supernatural threat that overwhelming it all. The story by James S. A. Corey involves grounded, realistic space exploration in the somewhat near future when Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt are all warring governments who must come together to deal with an extragalactic… something. Its first three seasons aired on Syfy, but after being cancelled, season four will air on Amazon Prime Video, possibly because Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is a huge fan of the series.

The Lord of the Rings

Amazon Prime Video is pouring over a billion dollars to create the most expensive television show in history, a five-season prequel to JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth epic. Amazon has been keeping details surrounding the production very close to the vest, but a late 2019 release hasn’t yet been ruled out. Once the show does air, expect Lord of the Rings to dominate pop culture conversation in the same way Game of Thrones, and the original Lord of the Rings film trilogy, once did.

Untitled Game of Thrones Prequel

Then again, maybe Game of Thrones will fill the Game of Thrones-shaped hole in our hearts. Well before the series ended, HBO had commissioned up to five spinoffs to be created, though details about most of them have been sparse. One such show, by Bryan Cogman, has already been cancelled. Another is rumored to be an adaptation of Robert’s Rebellion, the near-recent civil war that directly led to the first season of Thrones.

However, one prequel is already in production, with a pilot to be filmed sometime this year. Its cast includes Naomi Watts as series lead, as well as Miranda Richardson and John Simm. The story is supposedly set 10,000 years before the current series, and will involve the Age of Heroes and possibly the mysterious origin of the Night King.

So while the watch has ended for Game of Thrones, one of the most epic, expensive, talked-about series in the history of television, rest assured there will still be plenty more content to watch, dissect, and argue about online.

5 Great Netflix Original Films of 2018

Netflix continued to dominate the television industry in 2018, coming out on top with 112 nominees at last year’s Emmy Awards, and boasted more than 60 original films released this year (and counting). From comedies to dramas — and its fair share of documentaries — a tidal wave of strong, original content coming from the streaming platform continues to make it more and more difficult for us to leave the couch.

So, for those of you with no reservations about continuously filling in those perfected couch grooves, here is a list of the great original films Netflix released in 2018:

6 Balloons

In an unexpected pivot from their usual comedic roles, James Franco and Abby Jacobson play a heroin addict and his loving-yet-enabling sister in this heartfelt drama. Barely feature-length at 71 minutes, 6 Balloons follows the siblings over the course of one night after Katie (Jacobson) finds out her brother Seth (Franco) has relapsed.

Written and directed by Marja-Lewis Ryan, the film is bleak in its deliverance of the grappling truths surrounding addiction, and poignant in its examination of unconditional love between family.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

As surprising as it may be for a teen rom-com to win over film critics across the board, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before did just that.

A big win for diverse leads in films, To All the Boys follows Lara Jean Covey, a half-Korean, half-Caucasian high-schooler in suburban America, as she navigates through the complicated events following the leaking of her secret love letters to five of her crushes. The role is winningly played by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Lana Condor, and offers an honest, endearing, and downright sweet take on the dating rituals of adolescence. In a lot of ways, it’s reminiscent of the ‘80s classics of John Hughes, but for the digital age.

Roxanne Roxanne

Roxanne Roxanne is a biopic, co-produced by Pharrell Williams and directed by Michael Larnell, that explores the legendary beginnings of Roxanne Shanté’s career as rap’s first female star at just 14 years old. Coming out of the infamous Queensbridge Projects in Queens, New York, the talented battle-rapper shot to fame after igniting the Roxanne Wars — hip-hop’s first recorded beef — after recording a clapback with legendary hip-hop producer Marley Marl to U.T.F.O.’s hit single Roxanne, Roxanne.

Despite being out of the limelight for many years, the story of the pioneer who paved the way for names like Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Kim, and Cardi B – to name just a few – was worthy of some current recognition; Netflix did just that – and did it in style.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

This documentary feature by Oscar-winner and 20 Feet from Stardom director Morgan Neville centers around the last 15 years of filmmaking legend Orson Welles’ life, when he was an artist in exile. The film focuses largely on the long and laborious production of his magnum opus, The Other Side of The Wind, which was finally released posthumously this year.

Using more than 100 hours of raw material, this imaginative 122-minute cut is essential viewing for not just Orson Welles fans but any aspiring documentary filmmaker or film enthusiast. The Other Side Of The Wind was semi-autobiographical, and this intoxicating film compliments it perfectly while detailing the life and times of its subject.

The Kindergarten Teacher

Written and directed by Sarah Colangelo, The Kindergarten Teacher is an English remake of the 2014 Israeli film of the same name, a riveting psychological thriller about a disenchanted teacher living in Staten Island who becomes intrigued by a precocious 5-year-old boy in her class after reading his poetry.

Maggie Gyllenhaal shines in the role of Lisa, the self-deluded teacher and budding poet who, in some way, uses Jimmy, the artistic prodigy played by Parker Sevac, to live out her own dreams of becoming an extraordinary poet. The film explores the great lengths in which one will go to nurture the artistic pursuits of a child beyond what is deemed socially or ethically acceptable, as Gyllenhaal unravels and the child’s well-being comes into question.

Masterfully projecting the complexities of life as a struggling woman desperate to be heard, this film is bound to leave you affected. As Rolling Stone puts it, “for the filmmaker and her star, this movie is their poem.”

Filming for a Movie vs. Filming for a TV Show: What You Should Know

The entertainment industry continues to grow at a rapid pace — according to Stephen Follows, a data researcher in the film industry, more than 700 films were released across the U.S. in 2016 alone. What is even more surprising is that the number that Follows reported doesn’t even include film festivals, private screenings, and other types of showcases such as broadcasts of opera or theatre productions.

And even while the number of films keeps growing, the amount of original television content continues to peak. In an article published by Variety, writer Maureen Ryan wrote that there were more than 450 scripted original programs released in 2016.

Don’t expect the expansion of movies and television shows to slow down any time soon. The entertainment industry continues to dominate a complicated, turbulent world. But when it comes to creating these stories, what are the differences between filming for a movie and television show?

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Storytelling

Most television series are created with the idea that the show will be around for an extended amount of time. Typically, writers intend for each episode to have a small story arc that often ties in with a larger story arc told over the course of a season or more.

This added amount of time allows writers to develop characters that are more in-depth and have greater dimension. Additionally, there can be a much larger cast over the course of a series because of the time afforded for an audience to get to know them. Tension can be ratched up between characters and other story elements much more slowly than in a feature film as well.

Budget

A budget for a movie is usually bigger than a budget for a television series. In Hollywood, more money can mean more and stronger special effects, more high-profile talent in front of and behind the camera, and more diverse and exciting locations to film on.

Besides a few notable exceptions, television series don’t normally have the same type of budgets that movies do. This forces directors, producers, and screenwriters to be more creative with the storyline and character development, as well as scale back the effects and scope of their projects. This is a good reason why Wonder Woman and Spider-Man may have giant CGI supervillains while Daredevil and Luke Cage will fight mostly fairly straightforward stunt actors.

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Audience Experience

Viewing a film in a theater can be a very different experience than watching one from your couch at home. Television series, outside of events like Comic Con, are almost never seen in such a way. Scaling your story so that it can work on a screen as tiny as the smallest smartphone then is an important thing to consider when producing a television series as opposed to a movie.

Additionally, when it comes theatrical releases, viewers don’t have the same time commitment they may give to a television series. Shows give the audience flexibility in a way a movie can’t — you can pause the television show whenever you want, and or resume it at another time. Viewers may binge watch an entire series in one weekend, or take months or even years to get through the entire story. In a theater, an audience is more-or-less committed to sitting through and experiencing the whole thing in one sitting.

This is important when considering certain plot and narrative elements. If you’re worried certain story choices may scare off your viewers, you might want to make sure you pace these moves in a smart way in a television series. If it’s in a film, you may get away with it for the whole two hours!

These are just a few key differences between longform and shortform cinematic storytelling. And, of course, movies and television series (especially these days) also share many similarities. If you’re interested in learning the craft of filmmaking for either, or both, of these mediums, check out the programs offered by the New York Film Academy today!

3 Filmmaking Trends Taking Over the Emmys

With television adequately keeping up with the vastly different business model that became necessary with the advent of the internet and digital culture and consumption, it’s no surprise it’s now able to attain huge production budgets, incredibly rich and complex narratives, and Hollywood’s biggest actors – things that were previously only seen in films. Consequently, as an awards ceremony exclusively focused on television, the Emmys are now bigger than ever. Let’s look at some of the trends emerging from this year’s list of nominees:

Diversity

This is by far the most dominant trend among the nominees this year. Diversity and inclusion of previously marginalized communities are not only being represented at an all-time high among recognized programs but they’re at front and center, with many of the protagonists being LGBTQI+, people of color, and/or women. Not only do the central characters identify as such, but much of the narratives and plotlines largely center around the perspectives and experiences of those within the communities.

With no surprises, Game of Thrones tops the list for most nominations at 22 nods in total, followed by Saturday Night Live and Westworld with 21 nods each, and The Handmaid’s Tale at 20. With exception to Saturday Night Live, given it’s a sketch-comedy show, the top three alone feature characters (and actors) with fluid sexual preferences and have strong, female leads playing roles that challenge the status-quo – both within their plotlines and subsequently in real life. In fact, most of the programs with ten or more nominations, like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (14), The Crown (13), Godless (12), and GLOW (10), offer female-centric narratives that focus on the female experience within dominant patriarchal gender norms.

Many have also made significant parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale and our current political climate, connecting it to broader discussions around women’s rights as well as the #MeToo movement. RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality-competition show featuring drag queens also continues its reign (it’s had 23 nominations since the show began), with 10 nods this year. 


Moreover, five of the seven nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series –
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and GLOW, mentioned previously for ten or more overall nominations — are either based on the lives of people of color and/or women: Black-ish, Atlanta, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (the remaining two being Silicon Valley and Curb Your Enthusiasm). Additionally, Sandra Oh’s nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role in Killing Eve makes her the first woman of Asian descent to receive the lead actress nod in that category.

Diversity in the Emmys has reached to even lesser known demographics. Peter Dinklage, who was born with dwarfism, has twice won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for playing Tyrion in 2011 and 2015, is nominated again this year, officially making him the most nominated person in that category ever. Following his acceptance speech in 2015 where he mentioned the name ‘Martin Henderson’, a 4-foot-2 actor in England who suffered partial paralysis after being physically thrown by an unknown assailant, Dinklage addressed the prejudice those with dwarfism face but pointed out that part of the media portrayal lay in the hands of the actors. “You can say no,” he said. “You can not be the object of ridicule.”

Dystopias, Apocalypses, & Time Periods

Another recurring theme among the programs nominated this year is this end-of-the-world, humans versus [insert varying non-human character] dystopian storyline. Perhaps telling of our current-day political and/or ideological milieu? In terms of time travel, however, most of this year’s frontrunners are set back in time, or in the future, or both. In fact, all seven programs in the Outstanding Drama Series category this year are either entirely set in or have elements of the past in them. In the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, there’s no linear timeline or clear epoch but it plays with the idea of a dystopian world set in the present day but with traditional lifestyles and values more commonly seen between the 1800s-1900s.

Westworld similarly switches between past and present, although the word ‘present’ is more for audience reference — the story is actually set in the future (some devout fans predict maybe around year 2050-2060?), whilst the fictional theme park, Westworld, is based on many Western films like El Dorado and The Searchers, which were predominantly set following the Civil War at the end of the 19th Century. Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Americans, This Is Us, and The Crown are also in said category. GLOW, which is in the Outstanding Comedy Series category, is set in the 1980s, along with Stranger Things and The Americans.

With all these period and otherworldly television series, it’s safe to say this year’s VFX, costume, hair and makeup, and production design teams had their work cut out for them!

Streaming

Netflix

This year, Netflix has come out on top with 112 nominees in total, followed by HBO, with 108. Third in line is commercial broadcast television network NBC, but with 78 total nominees, it’s significantly behind the two networks ahead of it. HBO is a cable network, but what differentiates them from the other traditional channels is the innovative way they’ve reinvented themselves to adapt to the digital market by introducing the popular streaming option, HBO NOW, which doesn’t require an already existing cable subscription.

This is a testament to the changing shape of television viewing. No longer limited by locale or device, audiences have more of a ubiquitous television experience and networks have had no choice but to respond. Consequently, more and more shows are being picked up, giving screenwriters and filmmakers a larger reach and more opportunities to take chances and make niche content.

 

4 Ways Movie Casting is Different From TV Casting

With television’s creativity and talent blossoming in recent years, it’s becoming more usual to see A-List actors and big budgets gracing the small screen. In terms of production value, there’s not a lot to distinguish a show like Game of Thrones from major theatrical releases. Even so, casting for film and television can make different demands on an actor. Just as on-camera acting differs from stage acting, television acting (and hence casting) is different from that of casting for film … and even within television, there is a are a variety of factors casting directors have in mind.

We’ve created this list to help you make intelligent decisions when you get called for your next big audition.

  1. In film, the script is complete.

Sure some films will demand improvisation and require some rewriting during production, but in general the outcome of the film is determined long before an actor is called to audition, which means that the director and producers have a good idea of what they want for the part.

  1. Television scripts are waiting to be written.

On the other hand, television — and in particular television pilots — are an opportunity for actors to create a role, and your personality will at least in part determine the arc of the character as the show enjoys years of success! The viewers will be tuning in to see you, and the writers will be writing for you, so your personality needs to shine through in the audition.

  1. Not all television casting is created equal.

Of course, even casting for pilots in prime time shows is different than for a recurring role in an established show and different again for casting for a guest in a single episode.

Casting director Marci Phillips lays it out in The Present Actor: “One And Done Episodic roles are trickier. When we’re casting Series Regulars, we’re looking for Stars. This usually isn’t so when we’re looking to cast the rest of the episode. With an Under-5 or small Co-star TV role, you are usually there for exposition. You are there to serve and support the story, so they don’t necessarily want someone unique or fascinating unless that’s what the role specifically calls for.”

  1. Network casting vs. cable.

Cable shows have become increasingly filmic in recent years, and hence the performances of the actors more nuanced. Scenes are allowed to unfold without regards to commercial breaks, so it’s important to think about the kind of show you’re auditioning for: network or cable.

As this article at Cast It Talent suggests, network performances tend to be more condensed: “Television programs are built around commercial breaks, and to make sure you don’t change the channel, that’s when the victim tells the detective they know who the killer really is. A dramatic pause, music cue, and the camera slowly inches closer to the detective’s astonished/puzzled/worried face. Cut to commercial.”

Sound confusing? The only way to really grasp the differences is to perform many scenes and practice auditioning for a variety of roles. The New York Film Academy (NYFA) is a great place to learn the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in technique required for film and television acting, so that, when you get to your big-break audition, you will nail it.

Ready to learn more about acting for the screen? Check out our acting programs.

4 Things Students Should Know About the Movie Production Industry

1. Successful people never make it alone.

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How many times have we heard ad nauseam that it’s all about who you know? Those who are at the top now, likely didn’t get there working in a vacuum. They rose through the ranks with others they trusted to collaborate with in reaching their goals. They have a team.

Start by engaging with others not just at school but at workshops, festivals, and seminars. Like-minded people will gravitate towards each other. Folks in the industry often work together and respect one another enough to keep building a professional relationship for their mutual benefit. If you are a writer, find a producer who is willing to work hard with you, and the same goes for directors and actors. Build your team, knowing that these people will fill the critical roles needed to make your films a success.

2. You are the director of your career.

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You’ve heard that opportunity strikes when luck meets preparation. This increasingly digital industry, where we now have access to a plethora of media platforms for storytelling, is primed for you to create your own content.

Gone are the days where filmmakers could rely on studios to greenlight their projects and get the whole team on board. In the age of social media and reality television, an artist often has to have a certain level of presence to even be considered. Create a strong body of work so you can attract an audience and position yourself to be able to make better career making decisions. Become a content creator, and you can become the director of your own career.  

3. Learn the secrets of outsourcing.

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A common misconception of a director or showrunner is that they are the “boss,” when in reality there should always be 4 or 5 trusted people who provide critique or are better skilled in one area or another. Whatever your position, know when to seek the expertise of others who will only make your project better. You’ll always have a blind spot, and your own talent and skill will have a chance to serve the project best when you are successfully collaborating with the talents and skills of the others on your team. Outsourcing for different aspects of your filmmaking process, whether it is for budgeting, animation, or coaching your actors, is one of the tried and true secrets to successful production.  Mentors, film networks, and other resources can fill in these gaps for you.

4. Know the basics of storytelling.

While we can all agree that the fundamentals of storytelling are important to being a filmmaker, just as critical is knowing where you fit in the story that is actually taking place on set. Oftentimes, graduating from film school will leave you chomping at the bit to be hired as producer, director, or any other position of leadership. The truth is, your professional journey has only just begun. You are more than likely going to take on a PA role before doing anything else. How you handle what may feel like a lowly position is training ground for your future. Whatever your role is on set, it’s a critical one — or you wouldn’t be there. Every step of the way, you are paying dues—and all of it is a part of your story. Exhaust all of your opportunities to do what is expected, do it well, and always go the extra mile. Create your own track record, and be the hero in your story, where the only way to go is up.

Learn more about producing for film, television, and new media at the New York Film Academy.

Pilot Season 2017 Part 2: Here’s What’s Coming Your Way

Pilot season is a secret peek into TV’s future, when broadcast network execs decide which pilots go to series and which get scrapped. That trend may be changing with Amazon asking viewers to vote on their choices. Four Amazon shows already have the green light, but for the others, we’ll have to wait and see.

What follows are some trends in pilot season and some examples of shows that may be coming your way in the 2017-2018 season.

Enter Pilot Season Politics

Family dramas, comedies and police procedurals are joined this year by what the Hollywood Reporter calls the broadcast networks’ “efforts to appeal to Trump America.” NBC’s offering is a military hero drama ”For God and Country,” and CBS picked up a Navy SEALs drama, which, according to Variety’s Development Scorecard, “Follows the lives of the elite Navy SEALs as they train, plan, and execute the most dangerous, high stakes missions our country can ask.”

On the other hand, ABC’s “Red Blooded,” starring Reba McEntire as a “Red State” sheriff, will have her views challenged by a Muslim FBI agent. Speaking of ripped-from-the-headlines dramas, CBS has “Perfect Citizen,” about an Edward Snowden-like character. If you prefer your politics wrapped in allegory, ABC”s “The Crossing,” where the ill-fated refugees are Americans, is for you.

Seeking Out New Stories in New Frontiers

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Another trend moves us off this troubled planet with CBS’s astronaut drama called “Mission Control,” and NBC’s comedy “Spaced Out.”

Netflix and Amazon are also in the space-race, with the reboot of beloved ’60s sci-fi classic “Lost in Space” and futuristic “Oasis,” which Rolling Stone calls a “space-madness headscratcher.”

FOX has Orville, a comedy drama set 300 years in the future, as well as the apocalyptic “Passage,” based on Justin Cronin’s best-selling mixed-genre trilogy.

Marvel Comics teamed up with FOX to create the latest from the X-Men universe. The logline for “Gifted” runs: “After discovering their children possess mutant powers, two ordinary parents and their kids are forced to go on the run from a hostile government, eventually joining up with an underground network of mutants.”

Under the Influence

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CBS picked up the idea for “Living Biblically,” about a middle-aged man who decides to follow the Bible to the letter with hilarious results, from a book by AJ Jacobs.

Fox has loosely based its office comedy “Type A” on “*ssholes: A Theory” by Aaron James.

In Netflix’s “Disjointed,” Kathy Bates heads up a ragtag and mostly stoned bunch in the legal cannabis business.

Amazon is also into the pot game with “Budding Prospects,” a show about marijuana farmers in 1980s California. That show, along with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” about a perfect wife turned queen of comedy in 1950s New York, were given the green light to go to series by Amazon viewers.

What new shows are you watching this season? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re ready to learn more about film and television production, check out our producing programs at New York Film Academy!

Screen Love: The On-Screen Couples We’re All Rooting For This Fall

Very few among us could have predicted the sad end of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s 12-year relationship, which has left many fans searching for romantic hope on the silver (and small) screen. Here are some on-screen couples who can help you believe in love again this autumn!

“Bridget Jones’s Baby” — Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy

Fans of the Bridget Jones franchise have had to wait some time for the third installment, but we’re happy to report it has been more than worth the wait. What’s not to love about the bumbling Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth locked in a perpetual state of “will they/won’t they”?

This time around, there’s a second guy in the mix and the mystery as to who’s the father of the titular baby drives the plot forward with purpose. We won’t spoil it here, but if you loved “Mamma Mia!” or any of the previous Bridget movies, you’ll relish the time spent back with old friends.

“La La Land” — Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, again

Stone and Gosling have become quite the on-screen duo, having proven very convincing chemistry-wise in the past with “Crazy, Stupid Love” (2011) and “Gangster Squad” (2013).

This time they’re back for the musical flick “La La Land,” which is set for release in December. Thanks to a unanimously praised opening at the Venice Film Festival, it already stands at a near-perfect 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics particularly enamored with the sizzling performances of the leads (with Stone’s already garnishing Oscar buzz).

There should be a rule that dictates if you appear as an on-screen couple three times in a row, you are obligated to get together in real life. After all, the fans have come to believe it.

“Orange is the New Black” – Alex Vause and Piper Chapman

The show that got us out of our post-“Breaking Bad” hangover.

It has been a few months since the Netflix-dump of the entire fourth season, and now that the dust has settled, it’s high time for a re-watch — given the mileage to be had from that emotional roller coaster. The tempestuous relationship between Alex and Piper took something of a backseat compared to previous seasons, but comes back to the fore in the penultimate episode. We’ll have to wait until next June to find out whether they’ll ever stop hitting the self-destruct button on the relationship that has gotten us completely hooked.

As a romantic side note, Samira Wiley — who played Poussey Washington — has just announced her engagement to OITNB writer Lauren Morelli. The latter only realized she was gay during the process of writing the lesbian romance subplots of Poussey’s story. There’s a real off-screen love story to keep romance alive!

“Victoria” – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

One of the finest period dramas to come out of Britain in recent years, Victoria covers the formative years of the country’s most alluring monarchs.

With exquisite attention to detail in the costume department and sets along with a superb performance from Jenna Coleman (who you may recognize as Clara from “Doctor Who”), what really steals the show is Victoria’s endearing relationship with Prince Albert … and particularly how such a love can survive given the power struggles that engulf them at every turn. And better yet, audiences can enjoy the fact that this is all inspired by one of the most famous real-life couples in recent European history.

Outside of online streaming, North American viewers will have to wait until it airs on PBS in January to see why it has become one of this year’s most-watched shows across the pond.

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” – Rebecca Bunch and Josh Chan

Paradoxically, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is simultaneously the brightest and darkest comedy to have hit our small screens in the past year. It’s outright hilarious in a wacky way and peppered with delightful musical numbers, but at the same time centers around the (frankly disturbing) topic of obsessive stalking.

If you liked “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Ally McBeal” or “Flight of the Conchords,” you’ll love “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” And this on-screen … couple? couples? dysfunction?… will give you ample time to ponder the meaning of true love. Get caught up if you haven’t already, because season two will be airing in late October. And if the romantic implications of the season one finale are anything to go by, things are going to get very interesting, indeed!

“Me Before You” — Louisa and Will

One of this year’s biggest Hollywood success stories (having grossed $200 million against a budget of just $20 million), the DVD is now out for romance fans who missed it in the theatres. Again, we won’t spoil anything, but this is one of those couples … let’s just say, imagine Nicholas Sparks turned up to 11 — you’ll need a lot of tissues.

We hope these on-screen couples can keep the flames of romance burning for you throughout the fall. What are your favorite on-screen couples coming to TV or film this season? Let us know in the comments below!

10 Reasons The Walking Dead Got Good

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was originally published on November 26, 2014 to coincide with the season five midseason finale of The Walking Dead]

The Walking Dead takes its Christmas vacation this week with its midseason finale. So far, season five has been the best run of episodes yet. In fact, it’s been great, which is a surprise to anyone who watched the show in its earlier seasons.

Something happened near the end of season two and throughout season three, where the show started to find its legs and have glimmers of quality television. Season four was its coming-of-age, with the zombie series finally living up to its potential. Now, midway through season five, The Walking Dead and its stellar screenwriting has finally become appointment television, and The Walking Dead midseason finale is on everyone’s schedule.

The show always had some strong points—after all, we wouldn’t have watched it through its growing pains if it hadn’t. It had that badass opening theme by Bear McCreary. It had a gloomy post-apocalyptic setting. It had top-notch makeup effects and boasted the goriest violence on all of television. It had… well, that was about it.

Compared to the other AMC shows at the time—Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and RubiconThe Walking Dead wasn’t exactly what people thought of when they referred to the new Golden Age of Television. But now the highest rated television show on cable can finally stand tall with, at the very least, its genre-show brethren Game of Thrones and Orphan Black. How did The Walking Dead get good? Here are ten reasons:

1. Characters Got Smarter

It makes sense that by season five, The Walking Dead’s characters started showing some of those delicious brains. In the world of the show, it’s been a few years since the zombie apocalypse, so most of the dummies and suckers of Georgia have been eaten or decapitated by eye-patched madmen. All that’s left is the cream of the crop. Smart characters make for great TV. There’s nothing more frustrating than yelling at your screen when someone does something stupid or goes into the wrong room. But when they’re doing exactly what you would do and still end up cornered and without options, nothing is more thrilling to watch.

2. Characters Got Deeper

Like late-90s video games, the characters of The Walking Dead finally jumped from two dimensions to three dimensions thanks to some key changes in the writing. Sometimes ensemble television shows have to start with broad stereotypes for the audience to keep up with the story, but it’s about time we started seeing different shades and depths to Rick, Daryl, and the rest. The last couple of seasons have focused as much if not more on character than plot, a sign of any great drama. Finding out that this band of survivors is actually made up of interesting individuals makes the choices they make that much more compelling.

3. Characters Got Names

Even better is that these added dimensions weren’t just added to the primary cast, but almost all of the ensemble as well. It’s hard to imagine that characters like Beth have been with the series since the beginning of season two, considering she didn’t get her own storyline until season four. Before that, Beth was just “Hershel’s Other Daughter.”

4. Plots Got Morally Ambiguous

Even from the very beginning, the question the series seemed to be asking was “What morals must we sacrifice to live in a new post-apocalyptic world order?” But the show struggled with ways to ask it. Even situations that seemed abhorrent, like having to murder Carol’s zombified little girl in season two, weren’t actually moral quandaries. She was no longer Carol’s little girl—she was a murderous zombie, just like the rest, and Rick realized she had to be put down hard and fast. But since then, the show has posed questions that don’t have clear right answers, and where no decision will end up a good decision but still need to be made. Characters must ask themselves what to do with hostages, who to leave behind, who must be sacrificed for the greater good. Watching smart, deep characters with names confront these moral quandaries makes for fantastic drama.

5. Plots Got Burned

The Walking Dead was typically as slow-paced as its title monsters. It even spent two episodes re-introducing us to The Governor in the middle of season four. Then, something happened. Actually, a lot happened. Quickly. The season ended with our heroes trapped in a boxcar prison by cannibals, looking like it would take several episodes for them to plan and execute their escape. It took less than one. Burning through plot is an extremely bold move for a series, as original plots are hard to come by. But it creates a thrilling sense that anything can happen and keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. While that long-term prison escape could’ve been fun, watching it go up in flames along with that plot thread was way more exciting.

6. Characters Got Quiet

Do you know how we knew The Walking Dead asked the question “What morals must we sacrifice to live in a new post-apocalypse world order?” Because characters always asked that, out loud. All the time. Along with anything else they were thinking. The Walking Dead wanted to be a character drama from the beginning—the problem was, it had no grasp of subtext, treating its audience as dumb as its zombies. Too busy showing us bloody intestines and brains, it was telling us everything else. Now characters keep it closer to the vest, and the audience actually has to work a little to infer what they’re thinking from their actions and context and from what they’re not saying. You know, like good shows do.

7. The Show Got Courage to Try New Things

For the most part, the first three seasons are very similar. While The Walking Dead still has some wing-spreading to do, it’s gotten bolder experimenting with its tone and other aspects, like the aforementioned plot-burning. One great example is introducing the trio of Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita. Rather than try to adapt these larger-than-life comic characters to the moody realistic tone of the show, The Walking Dead embraced their cartoonish styles and had fun with these three. It injected a great deal of levity into a show that desperately needed it.

8. Episodes Got Focus

Along with playing with tone and plot, The Walking Dead has switched up its structure. Season 3’s best episode followed only Rick, Michonne and Carl on a side mission, and the writers seemed to take notice of its positive reception. Many episodes of the last two seasons play as little movies, telling complete stories with just a few focused characters. Rather than switching back and forth between plots, audiences got deeper into characters’ heads and tension builds more consistently, such as in The Governor’s Season 4 two-parter. The show has also been smart enough to switch it up to an ensemble-type show when the plot needs to race ahead. It’s a careful balance The Walking Dead has finally gotten a handle on.

9. The Show Got Better Mood, Music, and Direction

While most of the show’s improvements have been in its writing, The Walking Dead has beefed up its already decent direction. The last two seasons have combined mood, music, and cinematography to create a show that is as artsy and poetic as top tier dramas like Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men. While the show’s theme has always been one of its highlights, the show has also learned to use music better and to stronger effect, though it sometimes still suffers from the Unnecessary Sad Montage.

10. Carol

Carol started the show as a background character with an a-hole husband. Even when her daughter went missing and ended up killed, Carol still remained on the sidelines of the plot. But somewhere along the way, all the crap her character has taken turned into an amazing set of armor and Carol emerged as a fascinating, multidimensional character, even replacing Daryl as The Walking Dead’s resident badass. She’s smart, tough, sexy, and watching her do her thing is a highlight of the show. In just the last season and a half, Carol has executed a surrogate daughter, thrown herself off a cliff in a van, and single-handedly wiped out a cannibal fortress. Meanwhile, Rick farmed some tomatoes.

Seasons 4 and 5 may prove to be the creative peak of The Walking Dead. Will the show continue this momentum into season 6 and beyond? Or will it end up like so many of its characters–dead on its feet, shuffling aimlessly until it’s finally put out of its misery.